John Edwards's Reviews > Papillon

Papillon by Henri Charrière
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's review
May 23, 2010

really liked it

In this day and age of instant fact checking and "did it really happen the way he said it did" time in publishing, a book like Papillion could not be published as a memoir. It is simply too fantastic, in the unbelievable sense. But damn if it isn't rip roaring fun in the vein of Alexander Dumas.

Papillion was a real French underworld criminal who is (of course)falsely accused of murdering a pimp. The police frame him, the prosecuter gets a gullible jury to convict him and he is sent to French Guyiana (in South America near Venezelua) to serve his time in a hard labor camp before WWII.

What ensues is Papillion's account of his times and attempted escapes. To reveal more is to spoil the fun. I mean how can you not love stories with treacherous nuns, kindly bishops, plots to blow up prisons, men driven to madness in solitary confined, prison breaks, revolts, indian tribes which no civilized man has ever encountered, life on the sea and on the run? Believable to a degree, but fantastical throughout, this would certainly be called to the carpet by a thorough and fun-hating copy editor or website today.

Read it on a vacation someplace warm and I think you will enjoy it as the adventure story it was meant to be.

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